Hi Frugalistas! I first reviewed the afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room in an early frugal first class travel blog post, not long after the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room opened. It was very special, and so very English. In fact it was so good, I forgot to take photos. Fast forward to my most recent trip to London and we wanted to experience tea at Fortnum & Mason as a family, so it was with confidence I booked the Diamond Jubilee tearoom again. Unfortunately, this time proved to be an enormous let down – and this is why:
Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason: Arriving at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
We arrived right on time for our afternoon tea booking only to be told rather sourly that our table was not available. We were sent away for 15minutes while it was readied. Not a problem we thought because the shop itself is a delight, and we easily passed the time browsing.
When we arrived back, the reception area was packed, but we were invited to wait. And wait we did. Another 20minutes in fact. When we were finally escorted to our table, it was a table in the annex to one side of the tea room, rather than the main room itself. It was a table I had been able to see from where we were waiting. It was a table that had been ready for at least 10minutes.
Not a good start.
Fortnum and Mason Afternoon Tea Experience
Despite the wait for our table, our charming French waiter came to take our orders promptly. Although there was a choice on the Fortnum and Mason afternoon tea menu, we settled on a traditional afternoon tea with Champagne for Mr Frugalfirstclass and I, with a traditional afternoon tea accompanied by a lemonade for MissG. A traditional High Tea inclusive of a choice of hot dish is available for those who would like to experience this quintessential traditional English meal, as well as all savoury, vegetarian and vegan options.
As would be expected, the tea menu was extensive and took some reading. Our waiter was very willing to assist us, and despite such an extensive offering, it was Assam for Mr Frugalfirstclass and a single estate Darjeeling for me.
Our choices arrived promptly, shared across two separate three tier stands. The pot of tea was generous, and was accompanied by extra hot water to top it up.
Everything we ate was delicious. The sandwiches were light and tasty, and delightfully fresh. The pastry was crisp and the scones (plain and fruit) were warm and soft. Jam, lemon curd and cream arrived on their own stands and were generous.
But of course, going to such an iconic London experience as Fortnum and Mason is not just about the food. It is also about the experience. And unfortunately that’s where I was so bitterly disappointed in the Fortnum & Mason afternoon tea. The last time I had been it was all quiet, hushed tables of well dressed and well mannered diners. Alas not this time…….
It was noisy beyond believe, with clattering chinaware and cutlery and running waiters. Fortnum’s own website says there is no dress code for the restaurants, but that most people wear smart casual. Sneakers are acceptable, as are shorts in warmer months. What I didn’t expect to see was large groups of diners arriving in shorts, flipflops and singlet tops. Nor did I expect to see rows of backpacks lined up against the wall of our dining room like some school locker room overflow area. It was definitely not the “relaxed but refined atmosphere” they promote on their website.
Fortnum and Mason Afternoon Tea Review Summary
In summary, I have to say I was very disappointed in tea at Fortnum and Mason this time round. Rather than being the charming and unmistakably English affair of my previous visit, I found it a terrible tourist trap that reminded me of a (very expensive) cafeteria rather than a high end, traditional, English afternoon tea.
Once we were seated, the service we received was excellent, but the poor service we received on arrival was beyond disappointing. It was not even particularly polite. Yes, it was busy, but no one was being rude to staff or being demanding. Despite wearing just smart casual as per the company’s website (and Mr Frugalfirstclass not wearing a jacket or tie), we felt totally over dressed.
The Fortnum and Mason afternoon tea price comes in at £60 per person, with Champagne starting at an additional £14.75. While the food was very good, the experience was just so poor overall that I can’t recommend it. While it is more expensive, my recommendation for London afternoon tea is to pay the extra and book afternoon tea at the Ritz London instead. You will definitely enjoy a more memorable experience.
Author’s note: we paid for our own afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason and visited during early July 2019 (when yes, I know London is full of tourists).
Plan your trip to London:
We stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton near Marble Arch. It was well located and quiet despite being so close to Oxford St. Triple rooms in reasonable hotels are not big in number (many don’t have them) and go quickly during peak season, so get in early if you are looking for triple rooms: